Friday, February 01, 2008

February Reds, 2008(13): Argentina Cab Sauv(2), PN; Australia Cab Sauv(2), PN; Canada Cab Sauv, PN; France Blend(2), Syrah; Italy Blend(2)

STRACCALI CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG 2005, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% D, #019695 $15.45 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Bright medium ruby red colour; aromas of dried herb, cherry, and earth; dry, medium bodied, with fine acidity, good cherry fruit and medium drying tannin structure. Serve with pan fried steak, gourmet pizza, pasta Bolognese." My notes: A Rocca Delle Macie wine, deep ruby with a garnet twist and smoky aromas of plum and ripe berries, albeit faint. A bright sipper with a spicy theme trying to mask the berries although they able to show through. Medium-bodied with fine tannins counterset by a mild acid, finishing light but long. This could be a quaffer with hamburgers, meaty pizzas, italian meatballs in a tomato and oregano sauce. If you prefer a firm chianti a few years cellaring could be worthwhile, still moderate compared to an Australian shiraz say - not robust. I'd have in for friends and family, for sure with something meaty and tomatoey. $10.10 in the US. 84

VALENTIN FAMIGLIA BIANCHI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #677567 $13.95* (Tasted February 24, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 16, 2008 described as "Has a solid structure, with coffee, plum and currant flavours backed by bittersweet cocoa on the finish. 88/100 (James Molesworth, May 15, 2007). Gord Stimmell gives it 90/100 saying "A fragrant nose of vanilla, cola, black cherry and mocha signals a serious red at a very reasonable price. The flavours mingling morello cherries, plum and cedar are delicious, and the finish shows cocoa powder with a hint of vanilla bean." My notes: I don't recall the 2003 or 2004 as part of a Vintages release so this tweaked my curiosity especially at the *lower price. Blackcurrant, cedar and a whiff of vanilla highlight the nose with good legs on the glass and a dense violet ruby colour. Let air for twenty minutes to an hour. The first sip has firm tannins and berry tartness, full-bodied, and flavours that follow the nose: black currant and tamed oak chips. Finishes bright and drying on the palate with an earthy, spicy, dark berry that lasts for awhile. An OK sipper but with a different emphasis than the 2002, more smoke and less velvet. Pair with anything beefy. A good value with a youthfulness that a few years cellaring should iron out. 89-2

VALENTIN FAMIGLIA BIANCHI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #677567 $15.95 (Retasted February 23, 2008)

My notes: Originally purchased in September 2005... the last tasting was on September 3, 2007 with a rating of Ww92. The colour is still a deep ruby with a light smoky nose of berries and currants. Flavours are a blackberry and black currant blend, firm fine tannins, velvety textures and bold acids balanced with the fruit. A terrific sipper, both interesting and flavourful. The finish is quite drying with an earthy edge, long and positive. Likely plateau'ed or soon will. Have with anything beefy, grilled, roasted or bbq'd. Serve for friends or family anxious for a treat. 90-2

MASI SEREGO ALGHIERI POSSESSIONI ROSSO 2005 IGT, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #447326 $14.35* (Tasted February 14, 2008)

A General listing described as "Rich ruby colour; intense aromas of dry berry fruit, earth and spice notes; dry and medium-bodied with well-balanced with round, dried fruit, raspberry and plum flavours, with spicy notes in the finish. Serve with strong cheeses, pizza, burgers, or meat in a rich sauce." *Regular price is $15.35. My notes: A deep ruby with violet tone colour and very faint aromas of plums and black cherries, warm to the nose, slight smoke and long legs. The first sip has a nip and brightness on the swallow. Flavours are mellow and of black cherries, raspberries and dark chocolate, bright, perhaps not fully developed, with a spicy edge. Medium-body, well balanced - not dominated by the winemaking process. The finish is long full, a fruit compote of berries and apricots. Drinking OK now but perhaps not to its potential - cellaring for up to four years should be good. Have with meaty red pastas, meaty pizzas or cheese filled panzeronis, a T-bone or bbq'd ribs - nothing too delicate. For friends and family at anytime. 84

SYRAH 'VIN DE PAYS D'OC' 2006, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #064626 $12.85 (Tasted February 11, 2008)

A General listing described in the Wine 101 glossy as "tastes like ripe black fruits, subtle spices." From 100% syrah, the website claims "... made from vines planted on diverse regions and Mediterranean zones producing exuberant wines dominated by fruit. This produces a richly flavoured, concentrated wine that is red garnet with purple lights with a nose of red fruits: raspberry, currants, red flowers and vanilla. Round in mouth, the taste is ample and supple, with long silky tannins." Gord Stimmell gives it 86/100 although saying "Aromas of mild mace, sage, and slightly smoky black cherry. The flavours are quite weak, with red plum and cherry in evidence, but the finish is a tad bitter, with herbal green tea and pomegranate pips notes. Still it is drinkable, but not very good value." (Note: On the Parker system wines rated 85 and above are more than 'drinkable' being 'very good to excellent'.) My notes: Winemaker Frederic Roger and Paris fashion designer Loris Azzaro partnered to produce the Passion Collection, 2 wines, and the Classic Collection of 6 wines. A clear deep ruby like the colour of ripe black berries, the aroma although having the warmth of sun drenched black fruits lacks a distinct scent. Medium-bodied, well balanced tang and firm tannin with a soft texture of black berries and a faint berry flavouring, with slight smoke. The finish is mostly dry chalk, crushed berry and a thin metallic edge. A passable social quaffer - should please a crowd - without the pepper of a shiraz. A commercial drink-now not for cellaring. Should be better with dark fowl, bacon wrapped mushrooms, portabello caps, hamburgers or pork back/side ribs. Not recommended. 80

DE BORTOLI DEEN VAT 10 PINOT NOIR 2006, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #061622 $15.95 (Tasted February 12, 2008)

A General listing not described. Their tasting notes say: "Grapes from Victoria and New South Wales, has a medium red colour with purple hue and a complex cherry like Pinot fruit aroma with a palate showing good concentration with strong strawberry/spice flavours and hints of maceration." The back label says "... displays concentrated strawberry/spice flavours with some earth characters and soft, yet firm tannins. Enjoy with grilled tuna, salmon, pasta and lighter meat dishes." My notes: Produced for the export market, this has a see-thru ruby colour with a strawberry tint and aromas of crushed strawberries and soft smoke that slowly fill the bowl. Light-bodied, bright first sip, minty, with flavours of new berries mostly straw- with some red cherry. The finish is long, dry leaving some bright fruit remnants to savour. A lightly flavoured quaffer for pre-dinner sipping with or without cheese twists or veggie flatbread nibbles. Pair with planked salmon, cold turkey pieces and lingonberry, grilled pineapple and ham slices. This could be cellared for a few years perhaps acquiring a silky texture and more prominent spice - perhaps wishful thinking. Suitable for family and friends at any time of the day. 86

KATNOOK “FOUNDER'S BLOCK” COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Coonawara, Australia, 14.0% XD, #620070 $18.00 (Tasted February 11, 2008)

Toronto Life, gives it an 88/100 saying "A smaller regional winery, Katnook is making serious inroads. This bottling shows a medley of aromas, with cassis, black cherry, eucalyptus, chocolate and vanilla cream from well-integrated oak. Ripe and concentrated. Very good length. Now to 2010." My notes: #620070 is on the General shelves with essentially the same front and back labels as #660332, now delisted. This has a full aroma of berries with a dense blackberry colour, a sombre beauty in a glass - leaves a glass well stained. Is full-bodied, has a tang on the tongue and a suede feel of blackberries, black cherries and spice. Shows some fine tannin in the long finish with mostly blackberries and some currants on the palate. A super sipper if you prefer fruity over bold - this shows its South Australia terroir well. Also should cellar at least five years and show more complexity. Pair with anything meaty, as below - also great with garlic bagel chips and Rosenberg blue. 90-2

KATNOOK “FOUNDER'S BLOCK” COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Coonawara, Australia, 13.5% XD, #660332 $17.95 (Retasted February 11, 2008)

My notes: Last tasted April 9, 2007 and previously on the day of Vintages release (October 29, 2005). Noted then as "... A deep purple-red, dense with rich aromas of berries, vanilla, and light peppery spices. Flavour is full, smooth, with ripe berries, plums and dark chocolate. The finish is equally stunning; soft, round on the tongue and full of blackberries... " Everything the same full-bodied although the colour has a touch of adobe, the aroma adds a cedar tone, the flavours are biased to spicy berries. The dark chocolate, now with a bit of mint, is still there and the blackberries are full and rich flowing nicely into a long deep velvety finish. This is the last 2002 in the cellar so will rely on the new vintages to be as good. Have with anything meaty, beef or lamb: braised, grilled, bbq'd and full flavoured. 92-2

Rhone, France, 13.0% D, #259721 $16.75 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby purple colour; complex aromas of mixed spice, plums, dark berry and pepper with floral notes; dry, medium to full-bodied, well balance with supple tannins, and flavours of white pepper, cassis,black cherry and mineral; good length on the finish. Serve with pepper steak, lamb, grilled portabello mushrooms or seared duck in a cherry reduction sauce." The website says "The 2003 Cotes du Rhone red may be the finest example of this cuvee yet produced. While the blend varies from year to year, it generally includes approximately 50% Syrah, 30-40% Grenache, and the rest Mourvedre... 88-90/100 Robert M. Parker Jr (12/04)." My notes: A deep sombre ruby colour with good legs and, after airing ten minutes, light aromas of floral, tobacco humidor and pepper as the overriding scents. The initial sip is smooth but quickly followed by a tangy pepper and red cherry finishing with an even mix of red cherry, mushroom, slight pepper and woodiness. A touch of mint makes the ending bright with some dryness. A meal red for T-bone, bbq'd pork ribs, rack of lamb, italian sausage in a red tangy pasta. Medium-bodied, old world character with a lot of process and for those preferring this style it may be priced right (and rated higher). A well made conventional red but not a value - cellaring hasn't helped it. 83

LA FIOLE DU PAPE CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE NV, France, 13.%% D, #012286 $32.60 (Tasted February 4, 2008)

Described as "Garnet ruby red colour; dried berries, sour cherry, sweet fruit, minerals and herbs on the nose with black pepper, olive and clove notes; dry, full-bodied with spice, vanilla and ripe cassis and red berry fruit on the palate." La Fiole describes it as "... Rigorous selection and skillful blend of young and old wines in order to obtain a continuous quality. Garnet red color with brick-red nuances showing a good maturity. Complex nose: dry fruit, wood, truffle, venisson, spices… In the mouth, the wine surprises by its onctuousity at first and its powerful tannins on the end... will improve even more within the next 3-4 years..." The Wine Spectator gives it a 91/100 saying "Saturated ruby purple. Full-bodied. Full-acidity. Lots of fruit. Moderately tannic. Black fruit. Baked fruit, spices. Big aromas showing some pleasant oxidation lead into a silky, rich,... even polished mouthfeel... " My notes: A blend of grenache (80%), syrah (7%), mourvedre (7%) and cinsault (6%). A red plum shade with no brick showing but a pinkish edge and soft, spicy aromas of plums, red berries, a touch of tar and cedar. Very smooth, well balanced fine tannins and acid leaving a bright touch along with blueberries and plums on the palate. Medium-bodied, finishing long with blueberry, a slight cinnamon spice and persistent earthy textures. A natural sweetness doesn't make itself obvious but leaves a velvety roundness on the palate. Have with a mixed cheese tray, pepper pate on crackers, or sausage rolls. Pair with beef bourguignon, prime rib, pork cutlet, rack of lamb or cloved ham steak. Cellaring for several years should be OK. Not my style to be a value. 88

Tupungato, Argentina, 13.0% XD, #507822 $14.25 (Tasted February 3, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "A delicate, floral Pinot Noir with soft cherries and strawberries on the nose. The palate is medium-bodied, fresh and bright with crisp red fruit, smooth, supple tannins and a savoury, spicy-chocolate edge from the French oak." The winemaker says "The 2006 Alamos Pinot Noir has a light ruby red color. The nose is intense and focused, with ripe cherry fruit flavors and delicate floral notes. The mouthfeel is medium weight with a soft, supple texture. The palate is packed with raspberry and plum flavors and light vanilla notes. The finish is clean and fresh with sweet tannins and lively acidity." Natalie MacLean gives it 87/100 noting "A turbo-charged pinot noir for those who like their reds to be macho. Pair with: baked ham, grilled tuna." RP of Winecurrent gives it 4 (of 5) saying "This is a medium-bodied Pinot that delivers solid flavours of dark cherry and red berries in the aromas and palate, with notes of herbs and some fairly subtle spiciness. It has good acidity, making it clean and refreshing, and smooth, gently-gripping tannins... " My notes: Serve in a wide bowl for a see-thru ruby and aromas of fresh crushed strawberries including some leaves, ie. some grassiness - enticing. Medium-bodied with flavours that come on a silky strand of tartness full of strawberry and red cherries. The finish persists with a round soft texture with fine tannin and fruit remnants. A delectable sipper... sip a bottle before supper. Have with a tray of chocolates, any light meat or meat look-a-like, it's a tad thin so not too spicy; ham, pork, turkey, prime rib, planked salmon, garlic shrimp. This should cellar up to four years and perhaps trade some spare fruit for depth and complexities increasing its rating. A good value for a very fresh pn. 88-1

STONECHURCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #065722 $16.40 (Tasted February 2, 2008)

A General listing not described by the LCBO... the back label claims "Stonechurch Vineyards is committed to producing lifestyle wine with quality and integrity in mind. Billy Munnelly says "... Sexy Italian-looking bottles and lipstick smeared labels often mean ‘beware’ but not this time... a fun-style as suggested by [the] packaging... The Cabernet is lively – Beaujolais inspired and laced with vanilla spicy sweetness. Another party sipper or wash-down for burgers or ribs... [and the] ripe, smooth character is more in keeping with something from a much warmer climate. Shades of Yellow Tail!... " My notes: This has a deep ruby hue and leaves light legs on the glass. The nose is soft, faint, sweet cherry-like and a touch of smoke. Very supple texture from the first sip with a good acid and tannin balance but the fruit I anticipated never developed. I'd call it 'hollow'. A light cherry fades quickly leaving a soft texture as a finish... not all that bad as a social sipper but it doesn't bring anything to the party... and it's difficult to imagine its 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a good portion of Gamay I'd guess. Not a meal red nor is it a cellaring candidate. Not a value, imho. 76

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.5% XD, #200584 $12.05 (Tasted
February 1, 2008)

A General listing described as "Ruby red colour; aromas of light berry, black cherry, red liquorice, a touch of spice/oak & earth; dry, med-bodied with good acidity, light earthy/mineral notes, ripe strawberry & raspberry fruit flavours; quite smooth with soft tannins & a fruity finish. Serve with grilled or poached salmon steaks; vegetable kebabs; pizza; pork; ham; poultry." My notes: The back label reads as if grapes came from 'one of Canada's premier wine growing regions'. The front add-on label is more to it... ' *Cellared in Canada from Imported and Local grapes.' A polished deep ruby with smoky raspberry and watermelon aromas, faint but there. Medium-bodied, a silky first sip with a dry taste of not fully ripened raspberries, stalky enough to make this a marginal sipper. The bit of fruit disappears quickly leaving a rough stalky flavour and dry mouthfeel. Priced low for a pinot noir and it may be OK with a grilled T-bone or burgers and fries but isn't recommended. I'd guess there's something blended with the pinot noir... perhaps (10%?) young cab franc. Not for cellaring and not a value. 78

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